AMERICAS – Chicago’s tourism and convention bureau, Choose Chicago, is suspending all foreign sales trips and halting its work with overseas tour operators after the state of Illinois suspended a large swathe of its budget.
The bureau has had to take the drastic measures following the suspension of US$7.2m it was due to receive this year from hotel tax revenue.
Bureau spokeswoman Meghan Risch said the tourism office had drawn up a US$3m list of cuts it will make in September if no 2016 budget is approved. Foreign tourism promotion is one of the casualties on the list.
Choose Chicago will maintain its contracts with promotional teams in Toronto, Mexico City and four cities in China, each of which is estimated to cost around $300,000, but will not send representatives to travel to those markets on sales meetings.
Risch described the situation as “a tough one to swallow” and “pretty deflating”.
Crain’s Chicago Business reported that the latest decision on the cuts follows just weeks after Choose Chicago aborted its summer advertising campaign two months early in order to save $260,000 and also halted plans for a $725,000 winter ad campaign planned for later this year.
None of Choose Chicago’s 91 full-time staff are expected to be laid off until at least the end of the year at least, with Risch describing that move as “a very last resort”.
According to the US National Travel and Tourism Office, Chicago was one of only three of the top 20 most-visited US cities by foreign travellers to see a decrease in international visits last year.
Apart from the hotel tax, Choose Chicago’s annual budget comes from member dues and sponsorships, city grants and a marketing agreement with the Metropolitan Pier and Exposition Authority (McPier), the agency that operates McCormick Place and owns Navy Pier. The agency also receives $5m from the city’s airport departure tax, which can be used only for airport promotion.